Special guest steals the show at Gee-Gees football practice
Photo courtesy University of Ottawa Gee-Gees
OTTAWA -- Zander Zatylny scored the biggest touchdown of winter practice for the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees.
The 11-year-old boy joined the Gee-Gees football team for practice just over a year after undergoing his third open heart surgery. Zatylny was born with a rare heart disease that has required treatment since birth.
The Gee-Gees posted a video on Twitter showing Zatylny running a play with the offence last Friday. He took the hand-off and ran down the sidelines into the end zone as the players celebrated.
The Gee-Gees say “Zander’s positive attitude and great personality was key to have at practice. He fit right in to the Gee-Gees team and bonded with the players and staff immediately.”
Zander’s mother Chrystal Raymond tells CTV News Ottawa that her son “loved practicing” with the Gee-Gees.
“He looked up to every single one of those young men. I believe most of his passion comes from his dad and he would love to follow in his footsteps.”
Zatylny’s father Stephen Zatylny won the Grey Cup with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1990. Stephen Zatylny is old friends with Gee-Gees coaches Carl Tolmie, Phil Roberts and Scott Westlake.
Last year, Zander Zatylny was the feature CHEO patient at the annual CASCO Charity Gala. CASCO is a student-run charity organization comprised primarily of Telfer School of Management students at the University of Ottawa.
The Gee-Gees say CASCO reached out to the Gee-Gees football social media team for video messages for Zatylny. That’s when the team decided it wanted to do more, and made Zatylny an honorary recruit for the football team.
Since Zatylny underwent surgery at CHEO, he has focused on raising awareness for CHEO to help other children get well.
Appearing on CTV Morning Live last November, Zatylny said he talks to other kids about “if they get knocked down, they get back up. There’s nothing that can stop them.”
In November, he was recognized as an Air Canada Mark Maker and received tickets to fly to Boston for a Senators game.
Raymond says Zander is “doing great.” She adds the eight months between visits to the cardiologists is the longest he has gone without an appointment.